One of the true pleasures of the Appalachian Fall is the whitetail deer. We’re at the point where they have begun to shift their travel patterns just prior to the rut (mating season). This little guy in the feature image frequents the property around my day job with his mother and twin brother. He’s not quite a year old and as only recently lost his spots. He and his family decided to join us for lunch over the past few days. Being a city deer he’s reasonably comfortable with his human neighbors and didn’t seem to mind posing for a few pictures in front of the beautiful fall foliage. Deer are actually fairly curious creatures. As I knelt down to get different angles he pretend to eat the sweet clover on the lawn while inching nervously closer until his mother decided that he was close enough and stepped between us. She gently herded her children back to forest edge and to a comfortable range. I’ve seen the buck whom I believe is the father of twins. I expect that he’s a ten or a twelve point this year. The buck normally keeps his distance from us. This time of year he’s busy defending his territory from rivals. The ritual combat of the bucks is really nothing more than a wrestling match. They lock horns shove each other until one of them gives up. I’ll be watching the edges of the property for next few weeks hoping to get a good shot of the bucks as they contest each other for dominance.
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Hello Friends, before I continue my prehistoric fiction story inspired by the rocks at Beartown State Park in West Virginia I wanted to invite you to make sure that you read Part one first. The Hunter (part 1)
The hair on the back of the hunter’s neck stood up . He strained his eyes trying to penetrate the shadows as he prayed for strength. The thumping of his his heart was so loud it was drowning out the growling and hissing from the back of the cave. His voice cracked as his prayers grow more audible. He moved slowly as he leaned to the right and groped the dark cavern floor for the shaft of his spear. He could not break the lock that the beast had with his eyes. Instinct told him that if he looked away that the creature would pounce. He kept his movements subtle and deliberate. Finally he felt the bite of the spears stone tip against the palm of his hand. He drew the shaft forward projecting that razor sharp obsidian blade towards the danger. With his main tool now in place he braced the butt of shaft with his foot and waited for the terror in the shadows to make its move. His eyes widened as a shrieking howl burst forth. The noise sounded almost like the screaming of a woman. The eyes moved lower as something slinked his direction and paused. Another scream shattered the cavern air and the hunter tightened his grip on the spear. As the firelight fell on his opponent his worst fears were confirmed. The jet black cave lion drew it’s hind legs in tight and sprang forward. The hunter gasped as the cat became airborne and for a split second it seemed to hover in mid air. The hunter felt the full impact of the cat’s weight as it fell motionless across his body. His spear had found it’s mark at the last second. The cat was nearly as large as he was. His muscles strained as he pushed the animal off of himself. He he quickly scanned the cave to make sure that there was no mate to avenge the first cat. Satisfied that he was once again alone he picked up his discarded flute and renewed his song of thankfulness to the creator.
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The crisp breeze gently shakes the trees. Brightly coloured leaves rain softly from the canopy. The rustic boardwalk welcomed me foreword and with the first step the outside world disappeared. The rock cap ferns form a thick mat in the leaf litter atop each crag. The rocks at Beartown State Park form a Labyrinth with tunnels and canyons that wind their way through the forest. I imagine that Millenia ago this was a large cave system. Perhaps some prehistoric hunters took shelter here while tracking a primeval beast. In my mind’s eye I can see him unroll a bundle pelts with all of his treasures tucked away safely inside. Wrapped up in the leather pouch at center is the dried meats and wild roots that sustained him on this journey. His fire kit is bound in a separate pouch. Not just any dry sticks will start the fire. The twigs were selected with great care. This was magic and must be treated with the utmost respect. With ritual precision he places a stick in the notch and begins to sing the fire song and spin the evening fire. Soon the smell of smoke rises up from the joining of the wood. He knows not to quit yet and keeps his efforts in time with the fire song. Once the last verse has ended he shakes free the ember from notch and places on a dry mushroom. He remembered the words of his father when the magic was passed down to him. “The fire is a living thing and like all living things it must breath”. The hunter kindles the ember by passing on the breath of life. Again his father’s wisdom speaks to his memories, “living things must be fed slowly so that they do not choke “. The hunter starts to feed the fire fluffed leaves and then small twigs. He progresses from step to step when the fire was strong enough he began to cook his meal. He doesn’t require much. Just a thin stew from his provisions. After the meal he thanked the creator by playing his flute. He had a lot to be thankful for. Good shelter, a warm meal and a rich heritage to keep him strong. As he played something stirs in the back of the cave. Something that is not happy about the noisy music in the cave. The hunter whirls around and comes to one knee. Deep within the shadows of cave the greenishglow of eyes in the firefight glare back at him.
To be continued…
The Hunter (part 2)
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I’ve been a hunter for most of my life. These days I’ve replaced my rifle with a camera but the basic skills are the same. If you sit still long enough they will come to you. But there’s a trick. You have to be able to become a part of the environment. Sitting in the woods with a camera isn’t enough. They can hear your heartbeat long before you can here their approaching footsteps. On a calm day they can smell you from hundreds of yards/meters away. If you don’t belong there they will know and stay away. Learning to belong to the wild places takes some time and practice but being at peace with creation is a very positive experience. Keeping your mouth closed and your ears open helps prevent them from smelling your breath. The birds will tell you where he is. As he walks towards you, the forest falls silent. Control your excitement. A racing heartbeat is a sure sign that you don’t belong. When he comes into sight he’ll snort and try to get a fresh scent of you. Be steady and move very slowly. His ears will twitch as he tries to pinpoint your heartbeat. Easy does it. Focus. Now, take the shot. He heard the shutter snap and he bounds off to be hunted again. Each time will be different but you’ll never lose the thrill of the hunt.